From futuristic metals to colorful 3D-printed plastics, AEA Jewelry offers bold, structured pieces for strong, individualistic women. We were thrilled to get the opportunity to speak to founder and designer, Adrienne Ailamo, on her background, inspiration, and eBay roots.
First, we’d love to hear about your day-to-day routine at AEA.
The day-to-day varies. Some days I’m off at the jewelry district and other days I’m in the office. Today, I’ve been working on new 3D models for the AEA ONE line—that involves sketching on the computer and getting the models ready. Then product development, reaching out to stores, working with the press. That’s the general idea of what I do.
Did you always want to be a jewelry designer?
Originally, I went to Central Saint Martins and studied knitwear design. I worked in apparel for about 10 years before I started my jewelry line. I started it while I was still working—then when it got picked up by a few stores, I decided to launch it full time because I was really passionate about it. I love the sentimental value of jewelry, the idea that we keep it for years. I’d thought about doing high-end apparel too, but it was so seasonal. It’s always been important to me as a designer to create things that people can have an attachment to.
The way I started with jewelry was by making one-of-a-kind knit necklaces. I would get vintage beads and hand-bead them. They had sort of a tribal feel to them. From there, I decided I wanted to make custom pieces, so I started the AEA line, which is all metal. The shapes are very iconic. They’re futuristic but they have a kind of traditional undertone.
For readers who are unfamiliar with 3D printing can you tell us a bit about that process? How did you get started in it?
Well, first, there are a few different types of 3D printers. Some print with liquid, some with powder. It depends which material you prefer to work with, and from there they have slightly different processes, but the basics are the same: each machine prints in a 3-dimensional format. So instead of printing a flat sheet, it prints in 3D, layer by layer, until it has built a complete form—like a ring or bracelet!
As far as getting into it, I was already designing futuristic metal jewelry for my main AEA line. I decided to remake the collection in a very lightweight, affordable material using 3D printing as a diffusion line. That’s how AEA ONE was born in 2013. I thought it could be something that would reach a lot of people and really just be fun and a perfect impulse purchase.
What was your inspiration for AEA ONE?
I don’t know if I had any direct influences for the line, but I’m always inspired by Richard Serra sculptures, and the general idea of evolution and movement. My main jewelry line and my diffusion line evolve off one another. I’ll decide something and then continue pushing it to the next level to see where it can go. Because the shapes I design are so unique, they don’t exist anywhere else. They’re forms I created: monuments for the body; architecture you can wear.
Do you remember the first piece of jewelry you fell in love with?
I do. It was the falcon ring from the main AEA line. That is my signature piece.
Is there a specific woman that you design for?
It’s someone unique and individual, who loves to wear things that stand out and help convey their personal identity through color or shape. Some of my pieces are really bold and they have a lot of strength in them. I picture a woman who has a lot of confidence and some cool styling going on. Not someone who wants to blend in. Someone who want to stand out and have some fun.
What do you like to do in your down time?
I love to travel. My boyfriend and I just spent some time in Italy. Also: cooking, going out with friends, meditating. I start every day with a little meditation just to center and focus myself. Living in New York is awesome but there’s so much happening all the time that it’s really important to center yourself.
Have you ever shopped on eBay?
Yes! When I first got started with the tribal necklaces, before I was doing my own metal work, I used to buy vintage buckles on eBay to use in my jewelry. I bought a lot of things to use as inspiration and as components of my early jewelry designs.
Do you or your company have any style icons?
I’ve always loved Lanvin. Alber Elbaz does an amazing job.
Do you have a favorite quote that you live by or that your company stands for?
Not really. Just stay true to yourself. I’m not influenced by what’s going on around me which I think is why the line is so unique. Just keep going with what you believe in. Really tune in to your own identity.
Do you think you’ll expand into other markets?
It’s possible. I toss around ideas once in a while. I love designing in general, and I always gravitate towards things that can be worn. So far, I’ve stayed with clothing and jewelry but I like home decor as well. Objects that have a function always appeal to me.